I take pride in telling people that I'm a realist. I can see things for what they are, not for what I am told they are – and facts, not rhetoric, are important to me! The urban dictionary does a good job of spelling out the various views people have when it comes to the future: pessimists believe a glass is half empty, optimists believe a glass is half full, and realists know it's just half a glass!
When realism meets politics, it's also creates some dynamics. For many, if you're not with them, you're against them. If you're not pro-growth, you're anti-growth. I can certainly tell you that it's never quite that simple, but if you're not careful, you can fall into that trap of believing it is (sometimes I refer to that as "drinking the Kool-Aid").
Future economic growth and expansion have long been topics of Neosho politics. And there is no doubt that millions upon millions have been spent to support ideas that were viewed to be essential for Neosho's long-term growth. Two that come to mind are the nine-hole expansion of the Neosho golf course and the widening of Hwy 86 (from Griffith out to I49). At the time, these projects were "essential" to Neosho's future … at least to those who were pushing the ideas.
To a realist like me, there were always questions. Do the demographics support adding nine more holes? (The answer in hindsight was no!) Does the expansion of Hwy 86 make the most sense when Neosho's core retail base (that's Wal-Mart) was already firmly set south of town on Hwy 60? (The answer in hindsight was probably no!) Given that Neosho taxpayers paid a hefty amount for these potential misfires, asking more questions and getting more facts for future expansion opportunities seems like a responsible thing to do.
A recent realism debate I've had has come after the tornado in Joplin. There are some who firmly believe that the St. John's/Mercy relocation going on in Joplin is going to be the next economic boon for Neosho. I've heard more than once that Mercy's new location "in Newton County" will make Neosho the destination for doctors and nurses who work for that hospital. While I suppose it's possible that we'll see some positive impact, as a realist, I'm not sold! After all, that hospital is still "in Joplin." While it is moving 1.9 miles closer to Neosho, it is still 14 miles (vs. 16 miles) away. I'd hate to hang my hat on this idea alone to justify millions in future tax spending! Am I missing something?
Let me close with this final thought – making Neosho better for the future should be everyone's goal. But let's not lose sight of what makes any town attractive. Going all-in on one big project or idea isn't going to work. New roads and development are good, but without fixing overcrowding in our schools, it won't solve our problems. Pushing for more retail development while discounting the need for more youth activities isn't going to work either. It's going to take a balanced, "realistic" approach and a long-term consistent plan to keep Neosho moving forward – something I certainly support!
Page 2 of 2 - 2013 is starting off well! For those that followed the airport hangar construction, I'm proud to report that all 16 hangars are now rented and generating revenue! That's one small, but important, step for our airport to see new growth and prosperity! Water improvement projects are still on track. Revenues are on track with budget. I'm "optimistic" it's going to be a great year in Neosho!
Until next time: keep the faith, stay the course, and may God bless Neosho!
Richard Davidson is mayor of Neosho.